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Our critics weigh in on local theater

The In-Betweens. Dark Porch Theatre was formed as a dance-and-movement–based company in Portland, Oregon, and then moved to the Bay Area to focus on acting. This explains the dramatic dual nature of this ambitious original script and production, set in 1885. The first act is a solidly performed Agatha Christie–esque whodunit. Steel tycoon and occult aficionado Silas Danforth (Stuart Bousel) invites guests (each bringing a secret agenda) to his mansion for a spiritual and completely fake séance led by the hilarious and bumbling Professor M (Christopher P. Kelly). Act two turns the production's setting and style completely on its head, transporting the characters to an in-between world that feels like a cross between Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Sartre's No Exit. The fabulous costumes (designed by Cara Samski) morph from Industrial Age finery to all-white linen and lace as the characters are reborn into their truest forms (one becomes Pan, another Narcissus). The second act is a musical with skilled singing and dancing and a haunting score composed and performed live by the talented Ryan Beebee with four other musicians. Writer and director Margery Fairchild spices the plot with references to theosophy, murder, women's rights, and even an actual Pandora's box. It's ambitious, perhaps too much so, but a lovely hybrid of dream, dance, and theater. Through May 30 at Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. $15-$20; 673-3847 or www.theexit.org. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed May 13.

Actors Reading Writers: Popular local actors read modern and classic short stories. First Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m., free. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-848-7800, www.berkeleycityclub.com.

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BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers as the audience votes them off one by one until the winner stands alone on the stage. Sundays, 7 p.m., $5-$8, www.improv.org. Bayfront Theater, 16 Marina (at Laguna), 474-6776, www.improv.org/shows/bayfront.htm.

Beach Blanket Babylon: A North Beach perennial featuring crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Now with Rod Blagojevich! Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 5 p.m., $25-$80, www.beachblanketbabylon.com. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Best of PlayGround 13: A Festival of Writers and New Plays: The best of the bunch. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 31, www.playground-sf.org. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081, www.thickhouse.org.

Big City Improv: Actors take audience suggestions and create comedy from nothing. Fridays, 10 p.m., $15-$20, www.bigcityimprov.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.com.

Boleros for the Disenchanted: Jose Rivera's drama about love and scoundrels. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 31. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.

Captain Stormfield's Report From Heaven: The afterlife according to Mark Twain. Starting May 29, Fridays, Sundays. Continues through June 28, www.thepeoplestheatre.com. Pena Pachamama, 1630 Powell, (415) 646-0018, penapachamama.com.

Culturarte: Youth spoken word and theater performances. Thu., May 28, 6 p.m.; Fri., May 29, 7 p.m., $5-$15. Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission (at 24th St.), 821-1155, www.missionculturalcenter.org.

Dead Man's Cell Phone: Sarah Ruhl's comedy about technology. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 13. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

East 14th Street: Don Reed's solo show about growing up in Oakland. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through June 14. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

"Eccentrics of San Francisco's Barbary Coast ... A Magical Escapade": Historical magic show with Walt Anthony, David Miller, Brian Scott, and Ruth Fraser. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 27, $30, www.sanfranciscomagicparlor.com. Chancellor Hotel, 433 Powell (at Post), 362-2004, www.chancellorhotel.com.

Faust: Through May 30, 7 p.m.; Thu., May 28, 7 p.m.; Sat., May 30, 7 p.m., $55, www.sfparloropera.org. someone's house, 1652 Hayes (at Lyon).

Fukú Americanus: Based on the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Through June 21, 8 p.m., $15-$25. Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th St.), 626-3311, www.theintersection.org.

The In Betweens: A comedy by Margery Fairchild, presented by Dark Porch Theatre. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through May 30. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Kamikaze Heart: Tim Barsky's circus/hip-hop extravaganza. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 31, $14-$25, www.citycircus.org. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

KML Hits Highway 101: The comedy troupe goes on the road with the Schacter family. Starting May 28, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 14. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320, www.zeum.org/visitor/zeumTheater.html.

Krapp's Last Tape: Cutting Ball Theater's production of Samuel Beckett's drama. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 21. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 931-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Mauritius: Theresa Rebeck's play about a dead mother's inheritance. Starting May 30, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 28. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org.

Monday Night Marsh: On select Mondays a different lineup of musicians, actors, performance artists, and others takes the stage at this regular event that's hosted local celebs like Josh Kornbluth and Marga Gomez in the past; see www.themarsh.org for a lineup of future shows. Mondays, $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

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